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The Value of Being Misunderstood

Image of yellow and black butterfly on red flower. Raleigh Psychotherapy, counseling, Katherine Broadway

Alex and Brian have been friends for years. They would have long talks, go to dinner and a movie, and occasionally take trips together. It was a friendship that nurtured each man, but did so in very different ways Their relationship felt effortless, unconditional, mutual and equal. That is, until Alex did something that Brian did not understand and felt was wrong.

Alex decided to date Joan, a woman with whom Brian had interacted in the past. He thought he knew her well, but most of the information he had, was second hand. He did not respect her.

When it became clear that Alex and Joan were having a serious relationship, Brian tried to warn Alex and shared his experience. Alex had a very different experience with Joan, believed that it was a good relationship, and chose to continue it.

Hard words were said and the friendship was no longer the same. Both men felt misunderstood. Alex’s decision to continue the relationship led to a new understand of himself, of his friendship with Brian, and of the relationship with Joan.

Being Misunderstood is a Part of Life.

There is a value to being misunderstood. It's something that starts early in life, and forces us to examine our thoughts, beliefs, and actions.

Every child will say of their parents, “They don’t understand me!” which is both true and not true. We are all individuals with different needs and experiences, and we are each affected by the same events in different ways. This leads us to assign our own meanings to the same event.

For a child, the experience of being misunderstood is a vital part of growing up. It is necessary to define who you are as a person separate from your parents. If you feel that you are always understood by your parents, you will not do the hard work of separating and becoming your own person. No one would leave a perfect nest and do the hard work of growing up.

When things happen to us, we tell ourselves a story about it in order to give meaning to the experience. We often frame that story based in the context of what has happened in the past. It is important to learn how to determine if the stories we tell are accurate in the here and now.

There Are 3 Valuable Lessons of Being Misunderstood

1. Learning to know your own heart and how to honor it.

When we are misunderstood, it gives us the opportunity to look inside and define who we are, learn our hearts' desires, and to embrace ourselves. If we are never questioned, we will never fully understand ourselves and our desires.

When Brian confronted Alex, he was forced to look inside and decide what his heart was telling him. He had to ask himself the questions, “Why do I feel what I feel? What is important to me?”

2. We learn to be honest with ourselves and others.

It takes courage to be honest with ourselves. When we are not challenged, we do not question our motives, feelings and behavior.

Because of his friendship with Brian, Alex took the time to learn more about Joan. He evaluated his experience with her and weighed the pros and cons of being with her early in the relationship.

3. Helps develop courage and character.

Learning to tolerate the ideas and beliefs that others have about us takes courage and self-knowledge. Also, we have to have strength and courage to withstand what people say about who they believe we are. Many times, when there is a misunderstanding, it comes from what the other person is telling themselves about who we are and are not seeing us clearly.

Alex was forced to look inside and identify what he was feeling, what he valued in his relationships and what he wanted. He then had to have the courage to stand by that decision in the light of misunderstanding, criticism and loss.

In an attempt to save the relationship, Alex entered into a dialogue with Brian to see if they could understand one another. This takes courage, especially when it is done with compassion for yourself and those for whom you care. It also takes wisdom to know when to move on. After all has been said and done, it takes courage to keep silent and accept the situation as it stands.

As Human Beings, We Are Driven to Make Connections

Until we are misunderstood, we live as if relationships and self-knowledge come naturally like breathing. It is when someone misunderstands us that we have to wake up and pay attention. We are forced to step away from the false security that comes from being with someone we find similar to ourselves.

We can never completely understand one another. We all have different experiences and have walked different paths. We are individuals with our own points of view, beliefs and ideas. We can do our best to understand others, to be compassionate, and empathetic but in the end we can never completely understand or be completely understood.

Feeling misunderstood or like you can’t understand a situation in which you find yourself ? I can help you look inside and find the answers you need. Call me at (919) 881-2001.

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